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Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks

From the Cnet.com Article  ‘Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks’ by Seven Musil  ()

The device will sport a health-tracking features and work with multiple mobile platforms, Forbes reports.

Microsoft feels the time is right to enter the smartwatch sector, according to a Forbes report.

The tech giant is expected to launch a smartwatch in the next couple of weeks that will have health-tracking capabilities, including a heart-rate monitor, according to the report, which cited unidentified sources.

The device will reportedly be capable of syncing with devices running several mobile platforms, such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, and last more than two days with regular use. The gadget is expected to be available to consumers by the end of the year, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft has been linked to current smartwatch efforts as far back as April 2013, when the company was reportedly shopping around suppliers in Asia for components to build a potential touch-enabled watch device. Reports earlier this year indicated that the device would physically resemble Samsung’s Gear Fit with a full-color touch screen viewable on the inside of your wrist.

Microsoft has dabbled in the sector before, marketing devices running its once-hyped Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). After pouring a lot of money into the effort and partnering with watchmakers such as Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch on high-end, touch-screen models that cost as much as $800, Microsoft pulled the stem out of the project in 2008.

Wearable devices such as smartwatches and smart glasses have commanded a great deal of consumers’ attention and manufacturers’ imagination in recent months. To differentiate their products from competitors, electronics makers have strived to create devices with varying options. While many smartwatches sport square faces reminiscent of digital watches of the 1970s, Motorola and LG have opted for traditional circular watch faces for greater fashion appeal.

But Microsoft seems to be focused on one of the key selling points that other players in the crowded smartwatch arena have already seized upon: health. Samsung’s Gear S — its sixth smartwatch launch in the past year — was unveiled in August and includes a heart rate monitor, pedometer, and sleep tracking.

Meanwhile, Samsung rival Apple unveiled the highly anticipated and much-speculated Watch last month. The new smartwatch taps into apps that can track heart rate, calories burned, activity level and certain fitness activities. It also works with other fitness apps, such as Nike+.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

 

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US spying scandal will ‘break the Internet,’ says Google’s Schmidt

US government surveillance is destroying the digital economy, a roundtable of execs from Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech companies tell Sen. Ron Wyden

From the CNET.com Article by Seth Rosenblatt ( @sethr)

PALO ALTO, Calif. — The impact of US government surveillance on tech firms and the economy is going to get worse before it gets better, leaders at some of the biggest tech firms warned US Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday during a roundtable on the impact of US government surveillance on the digital economy.

The senior Democratic senator from Oregon took the floor at the Palo Alto High School gymnasium — where he played high school basketball well enough to earn a college scholarship for his court-side abilities more than 50 years ago — to discuss the economic impact and future risks of US government surveillance on technology firms.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who has been outspoken on the topic, pulled no punches with his assessment of how the spying scandal has and will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.

The impact is “severe and is getting worse,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to wind up breaking the Internet.”

Also on the panel with Schmidt was Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, another critic who became more outspoken of government surveillance after Edward Snowden leaked National Security Agency documents in 2013 that showed a much wider federal spying apparatus than previously believed.

“Just as people won’t put their money in a bank they won’t trust, people won’t use an Internet they won’t trust,” Smith said.

Panelist Ramsey Homsany, general counsel for online storage company Dropbox, said the trust between customers and businesses that is at the core of the Internet’s economic engine has begun to “rot it from the inside out.”

“The trust element is extremely insidious,” Homsany said. “It’s about personal emails, it’s about photos, it’s about plans, it’s about medical records.”

The documents leaked by Snowden indicate that the US government has been collecting a record of most calls made within the US, including the initiating and receiving phone numbers, and the length of the call; emails, Facebook posts and instant messages of an unspecified number of people; and the vast majority of unencrypted Internet traffic including searches and social media posts. Documents from Snowden show that the British equivalent of the NSA, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has a similar program.

Trouble abroad

In prepared remarks to open the roundtable, Wyden noted that he warned back in 2011 that people were going to be stunned and angry when they found out how the US government had been “secretly applying its surveillance authority” to its citizens. What he wasn’t counting on was the international backlash.

Some of the international pushback is in response to data collection by tech companies, not the US government. Europe’s new and controversial “right to be forgotten” law, which says European citizens have a right to ask search engines to remove any results that might infringe on their privacy, is causing headaches for Google. Critics contend that Google policies placed data collection over privacy.

The tech execs on the panel were most upset and scared about international efforts to impose “data localization,” as Microsoft’s Smith put it, referring to a burgeoning efforts by countries to force companies to build data centers based within their borders.

The cost of building data centers in each country that a tech firm wants to do business in could wind up destroying US tech firms, Schmidt and Smith warned.

Schmidt called data localization a “national emergency.” Tech titans have yet to go in-depth as to the actual financial impact data localization has had on them, but in addition to the costs of having to build at least one separate data center for each country that demanded it, data localization could also subject the data to local laws in a way that tech firms worry would erode user trust — and their ability to trade on that trust — even further.

Smith noted that 96 percent of the world does not live in the US, and that the American tech economy depends on convincing them that American tech services are trustworthy. “Foreign data centers would compromise American [economic] growth” and leadership, he said.

Abroad, efforts are already underway to force international tech companies to be more respectful of their own national interests — efforts that could erode consumer trust further, said Wyden. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said publicly that Germany is looking at European email service providers so that their messages “don’t have to go across the Atlantic.” The government of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is considering forcing US tech firms to build data centers in Brazil, if they want to do business with Brazil.

The biggest indication of the decline of America’s ability to guide the Internet, according to Wyden, is that Chinese officials told the senator earlier this summer that they considered the Chinese theft of US tech trade secrets no different than US government surveillance of foreign governments and firms.

Rebuilding trust

Part of reclaiming leadership in the digital economy since the Snowden document leaks has been efforts by tech companies to encrypt user data to protect it. Facebook has used its leverage to help convince tech companies to implement tougher webmail encryption standards, while Google and Yahoo are seeking to push the envelope of how encryption can safeguard webmail.

Panelist Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook, called efforts to encrypt user data “a key business objective of all of us.”

“I’d be fundamentally surprised if anybody takes the foot off the pedal of building encryption into their products,” he said.

Wyden reiterated his stance that he is not opposed to all government surveillance: He supports Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments from 2008, which allows the director of National Intelligence and the US attorney general to team up to target non-US citizens located outside the US.

While Wyden and the panelists discussed the need to revise American laws as the first step to regain the trust of American citizens and international governments, they didn’t talk about what to do with the data that’s already been collected.

Wyden told CNET after the panel that he had no plans at the moment to address the data that the government has currently collected.

“I have to reflect on that,” he said, but added, “The cat’s out of the bag. I want to get policies right for the future.”

“There’s no question that Washington, DC, does overreach well,” quipped the senator.

Wyden concluded with a promise to make Congress take action to preserve the digital economy.

“The message here today is that there is a clear and present danger to the Internet economy,” he said. “The reality is that we can pass a good bipartisan bill by the end of the year.”

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Microsoft sets cloud event for October 20

From the Cnet.com article by Mary Jo Foley

Microsoft is holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event on October 20 in San Francisco.

CEO Satya Nadella and Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud & Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will both be presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. to noon Pacific Time and will be webcast live on the Microsoft News Center.

I’m hearing the event will include both a look at how Microsoft’s approach is different from its competitors, as well as a recap on cloud investments the company has been making. No doubt there will be some news, as well.

During a recent Citi Global Tech Conference appearance, Guthrie talked up Microsoft’s scale as one of its big differentiators. The company is running data centers in 17 regions worldwide.

Guthrie also talked up the importance of Intune, Microsoft’s mobile-device management service, and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, which includes Intune, during his Citi appearance. He also mentionedMicrosoft’s Azure ML machine-learning service, currently available in preview form, as key to the company’s cloud strategy.

Microsoft is continuing to crank out meaty, regular updates to Azure about every two to three weeks. Last week alone, Microsoft announced general availability of its Redis Cache Service; general availability of its Disaster Recovery to Azure (using Azure Site Recovery) service; the public preview of Elastic Scale for Azure SQL Database; additional features for its DocumentDB NoSQL service and more.

This story originally appeared as “CEO Nadella to talk up what’s next for Microsoft’s cloud” on ZDNet.

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Free Windows 9 For Some Isn’t Too Crazy

From the TechCrunch.com’s article by Alex Wilhelm(@alex)

At some point, speculating about what will become quickly obvious is difficult. Still, on the cusp as we are of the release of the first preview of what may be called Windows 9, it’s reasonable to take a few notes of the latest rumor cycle: Will Windows 9 be free?

Current gossip indicates that for Windows 8 and Windows XP users, the new code could be in the case of the former, free, and in the case of the latter, cheap.

Both are reasonable ideas: Windows 8 users have already paid for a recent copy of Windows — either through their OEM, or directly — and thus to provide them with a cheap or free copy of the operating system that may greatly improve their computing experience is sensible, and not forward-revenue expensive; those users are not really in the market for a new, full-priced operating system.

In the case of Windows XP, Microsoft remains hellbent to get users of that OS, now vulnerable due the end of formal support for the software, onto something more stable. And since it won’t be Windows 8, as we have learned over these past few years, then, well, what comes next will have to do.

Microsoft has made recent efforts to make Windows free for some. If you buy a small device, with a screen size of 9 inches or less, either phone or tablet, Windows is free. That’s a change. And so to see Microsoft potentially make part of its soul zero-cost to a certain subset of its current user base that are not, as it were, near-term sources of new Windows incomes, is not, as potential goes, too surprising.

Microsoft cannot afford to make Windows free to all, at once. Incomes from OneDrive, the Windows Store, and the like must mature first, granting the company revenue flexibility to be more drastic in a business model sense when it comes to its operating system.

Whatever the case, we’ll have a good first look at Windows in short order. And if Microsoft fails to show enough, it will be to its own detriment.

Steps are good, but when you need a leap, no iterative hop will make it across the chasm.

 

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Xbox One users can now buy and download games remotely

From Cnet.com’s Lance Whitney

Xbox One users now can remotely buy a game and have it automatically downloaded to their console, courtesy of the latest update.

With a rollout that started Sunday, the Xbox One August update offers “one of the most requested features” based on Xbox feedback, according to Xbox Live chief Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson.

Specifically, gamers will be able to use the Xbox SmartGlass app or access the Xbox.com website to remotely buy games and add on content. Assuming your Xbox One is set up to automatically accept updates, that means your console will start downloading the game or other content right after you purchase it.

To keep current Xbox One owners happy and potentially draw in more buyers, Microsoft updates the console each month with new features and enhancements. Those updates are based on feedback from current users. The next major update for September has already started rolling out to members of the Xbox Live preview program, and promises a slew of new features, including a revamped Party App, a new Friends section, a boot-to-TV option, and updates to SmartGlass.

Also packaged into the August update is a change to your activity feed, specifically in the way you interact with your friends. Tweaked with a new one-column layout, the activity feed will let you post text to your feed and like or comment on other items in the feed. In turn, you’ll be notified if someone likes, comments on, or shares the items that you post. You can share game clips and other items with your friends either publicly or privately, according to Hryb.

What else does the August update carry?

Your friends list now shows you how long a specific friend has been online. The Blu-ray player app supports 3D Blu-ray. A notification pops up when your controller’s battery gets low. And finally, you can turn off notifications while watching videos.

“Today (Sunday), we will begin rolling out the next Xbox One system update to fans around the world, which will include improved social features to make sharing your gaming experiences with friends better and easier,” Hryb said in his blog post. “These new features are a result of your invaluable feedback, including some of the most requested features seen on Xbox Feedback.”

The update is scheduled to reach all Xbox One users over the next few days.

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Windows 9 – The Way of the Windows Future

Windows 9: User Experience Evolved?

So if your like me you didn’t necessarily dig Windows 8 or its upgrade Windows 8.1 but Microsoft is trying a gutsy move: An operating system that adjusts its visual appearance and user interface to accommodate the hardware its on. So what exactly does that mean for the average joe? Well if your using a laptop or desktop where a keyboard and mouse are present Windows 9 will bypass the metro style interface and take you straight to the tried and true Windows Desktop screen, if you have a Windows Tablet it will use a touch screen styled interface like Metro and if you have a Tabtop (Tablet/Laptop Hybrid) then it will allow you to switch be the Metro interface and traditional desktop style when a keyboard is detected.  Windows 9 is reported to be coming out in the Spring next year and the public preview will be available in the fall so we may see, sooner rather than later, if this will be the shot in the arm Microsoft and Windows or yet another poison.

 

Source : Engadget

 

 

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News from Windows

Surface Pro 3 Coming Soon

Yesterday Microsoft announced the launch of the Surface Pro 3 and based on the listed specs Microsoft believes it will replace your laptop in the future. The listed specs include:

Windows 8.1 Pro
4th Gen Intel i3/i5/i7 Processor
64gb-512gb hard drive storage
4gb-8gb of LPDDR3 Ram
Wireless A/B/G/N & Bluetooth 4.0
5mp front-facing camera & 1080p rear-facing
Up to 9 hours of web-browsing batter life

Prices will vary by model ranging from $799 (i3, 4gb ram , 64gb Storage) to $1,949 (i7, 8gb ram, 512gb Storage)

We haven’t had our hands on one yet but based on specs alone the hardware side looks solid.

For more information check out their site.
For full hardware specs : Here
To Pre-Order : Here

 

MS Scam Calls

Don’t Get Scammed By Call Center Phishing

Recently we have seen an upswing in the number of calls we are getting regarding Microsoft Support Call Center scam calls.

HOW IT WORKS: In this situation someone will call your phone and advise you that your computer is highly infected and that they will “help” clean your computer, they will have you visit a website where you will download and install remote access software that will give them full access to your pc. After some poking around and running commands they will inform you that the computer is badly infected and will need to be cleaned for a very high amount (between $200-$900, typically).  You give them your credit card and they bill you for services that were never really needed.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: As soon as someone calls saying they are from Microsoft or any other support center hang up the phone, do not give them access to your pc, and if you think you may have bring it in to our shop for a full clean up. If you have already fallen for this scam, don’t beat yourself up your not alone.

For more information regarding this scam check out the Microsoft Response to Scam Call Center.